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How to Improve Patient-Provider Communication During the Appointment Stage

Patient Imaging Journey Appointment Stage

Why providing comfort to concerned patients as they wait for an imaging exam is an essential part of preventing early departures.

From the patient perspective, the middle stage of the medical imaging journey—the appointment stage—begins as soon as they arrive at the imaging department (or clinic) and ends as soon as they leave. While this stage is actually shorter than that from the provider’s perspective (i.e., starts when the appointment begins), there are a number of things that occur in the moments prior to an imaging exam that can have a considerable impact on the patient experience.

The 4 steps of the appointment stage

The appointment stage for a patient begins once they have checked in for their imaging exam. It includes the time they spend in the waiting room, the preparation required for the procedure and the procedure itself. Although this stage of the medical imaging journey differs by clinic, a mapping exercise can improve a provider’s understanding of who patients interact with leading up to their appointment time, what they are seeing in the waiting room and where they are going. Examining the way other industries, such as aviation, manage customer queues and wait times can be an informative way to improve this process—and the way patients experience waiting.

Steps in Patient Imaging Journey Appointment Stage

3 strategies to put patients at ease in the waiting room

An effective way to reduce any frustration patients feel while waiting for a stressful imaging exam is to use this time to address their concerns.

  • Employ a welcoming and knowledgeable front-desk staff that sets a positive tone for the appointment by helping patients feel seen and respected. Having someone available to answer questions about wait times, insurance, modality preparation, de-robing instructions and the procedure itself will help set patient expectations.
  • Use the waiting room as a communication tool by offering pamphlets or posters about the procedure and how to understand or access the results. By modifying the environment to include relaxing music and comfortable chairs providers can also help patients better tolerate appointment delays.
  • Implement procedural walk-throughs by attending nurses and imaging specialists to help inform patients on what to expect before the procedure begins. In addition to addressing patient apprehension, this can be an effective way to obtain informed consent.

For more strategies to help increase appointment adherence and improve patient experience, download Enhancing Patient Engagement: A Guide to Effective Communication Throughout the Patient Imaging Journey.

How patients and providers benefit from educational waiting room environments

According to a 2018 Vitals study, 30% of patients have walked out on an appointment because of excessive wait times. By placing a priority on comfort and communication during this stage of the medical imaging journey, providers can ease patient stress and enhance the way they feel about the experience as a whole.

Using this time to educate patients on the procedure they are about to experience, as well as how to access results, can decrease feelings of discomfort and make it less likely they will leave before an important exam. In addition to ensuring patients receive a timely diagnosis, keeping them actively engaged can save providers time and money.

How PocketHealth helps prevent patients from making an early exit

Informing patients that they can access, view, share and understand their imaging results using PocketHealth helps ease some of the stress a patient may feel waiting for the results post appointment. Providers that partner with PocketHealth receive posters, handouts and other educational materials that educate patients about how to access records through the PocketHealth platform.

A little comfort goes a long way

Waiting rooms can be anxiety-inducing places but by using the time wisely, providers can put patients at ease and make them less likely to leave before the procedure has a chance to start. By communicating more effectively during the appointment stage—when they have access to a captive audience—providers can reduce patient stress while empowering them to become more involved in the process.

Improving the waiting room experience and addressing any concerns patients may have can help them tolerate delays and ensure a timely diagnosis is received. Other measures, such as implementing procedural walk-throughs ahead of an imaging exam, can keep patients engaged and make it less likely providers will lose time and money to early departures.

For more tips on how to better communicate with patients during all stages of their imaging journey, download Enhancing Patient Engagement: A Guide to Effective Communication Throughout the Patient Imaging Journey.

About PocketHealth

PocketHealth is the first patient-centric image sharing platform, empowering patients with fast access, easy sharing and permanent, secure storage of their medical imaging and reports. By eliminating any network image-sharing dependencies, PocketHealth seamlessly integrates into healthcare systems and creates efficiencies and cost savings for providers while putting patients in control of their healthcare journey. PocketHealth is trusted by over 600 hospitals and imaging centers across North America and is used by more than 1.5 million patients. Request a demo today.

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